KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Covid crisis country Brazil has been picked as last-minute host of the Copa America after Argentina followed original cohost Colombia in withdrawing from staging because of health security concerns.
The choice of Brazil will worry European clubs whose players are due to play the tournament because its right-wing President Jairo Bolsonaro is a notorious coronavirus denier.
Already a swathe of South American World Cup qualifying matches have been postponed because of international pandemic restrictions.
Brazil has recorded 16,515,120 cases with 462,092 deaths, the second-highest death rate in the world after the United States. The death date of 218 per 100,000 people is the highest in the world.
Bolsonaro has ridiculed social distancing restrictions and called for a return to normal life despite a slow vaccine rollout. His handling of the pandemic response is under investigation by a senate inquiry.
However a meeting of the South American confederation CONMEBOL took only one hour to switch the tournament to Brazil which also played host in 2019.
A statement said: “CopaAmerica 2021 will be played in Brazil! Tournament start and end dates are confirmed. The venues and the fixture will be informed by CONMEBOL in the next few hours.
“The oldest national team tournament in the world will make the entire continent vibrate!
“CONMEBOL thanks President Jair Bolsonaro and his team, and also the Brazilian football confederation for opening the doors of this country for the safest sporting event in the world today. South America will shine in Brazil with all its stars.”
The Copa America is due to start on June 13 with matches being played behind closed doors in four stadia rather than the original eight: four cities: Brasilia, Cuiabá, Goiânia and Rio de Janeiro.
Argentina pulled out when the government of President Alberto Fernández informed CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez, a vice-president of world governing body FIFA, that it was not in a position to hold the tournament.
The country’s health situation influenced the decision along with opinion polls in which a majority of those questioned were opposed to the tournament. Colombia pulled out a week earlier after the spread if violence general public unrest.
** Brazil’s veteran defender Thiago Silva will miss the Copa America after being injured in Chelsea’s Champions League Final victory over Manchester City in Porto on Saturday.